As a Californian, I must say I am a bit distraught when it comes to the rarities of sunshine in the Midwest. Not only that, but add the frequent occurrences of snow, despite it being April — a fully-fledged spring month. However, as distressing as it is to wake up most spring mornings and see a gray sky as opposed to blue, the lack of sunny days has ultimately taught me the importance of taking advantage of the cloudless skies and sunshine, no matter the weather outside.
So, for anyone struggling with the lingering effects of wintertime sadness, let’s discuss the advantages to being outside during the occasional days the sun is shining. It has been proven that sun exposure to skin increases our brain’s release of the hormone serotonin, associated with boosting people’s moods with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). However, this serotonin boost is not limited to helping people with these specific mood disorders. Every person produces a unique amount of serotonin, and for every person, when sunlight enters the eye, it stimulates the retina that cues the brain to produce even more serotonin.
It's clear that exposure to sunlight is an important part of everyone’s routine; yet, we still often think of taking advantage of sunny days as a chore that involves spending time away from being productive, doing schoolwork or whatever other demands the day has in store. What a lot of us forget is that higher serotonin levels are necessary for staying focused for long periods of time and increasing productivity. The moral of the story is that taking breaks outdoors is productive, and is an essential part of a successful work routine that, most importantly, is sustainable for us to participate in every day.
The Memorial Union Terrace is opening back up on April 13, Madison’s Saturday on the Square Farmers Market is returning April 16 and throughout campus newly green spaces are covered in sun. With all of that, let’s keep one thing in mind: taking part in these activities is not just about the importance of sunshine when it comes to self-care, but also about the importance of sunshine as it relates to our everyday college work environment.